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A Memorial with Koliva

Oh, goodness, how much do I love my dad?

You can’t even begin to count the ways. And God saw fit to fill my life with wonderful men in all aspects…how blessed I am.

Recently, we celebrated Father’s Day. I had big plans of kicking back, eating peanuts and stretching in the 7th inning for my beloved Tigers with my dear father. Instead, he surprised me with his wish to go to church to pay respects for his friend, Al, who passed away about six months ago.

As the oldest child in our family, the only girl with three brothers and a mom to two wonderful boys, there is a special place in my heart for my dad. So…in lieu of the tickets already purchased for the game, I sent my husband, sons and brothers to cheer on the Tigers and took my dad to church for the memorial.

God did not disappoint. At all.

I was so grateful for that quiet moment with my dad and family. Memorials can be happy and sad all at once. A convolution of every emotion – grief through tears. Happy because you reconnect with people you’ve not seen in a while – and sad because of the hollow space left by the loved one that has gone.

Last month, we also had another memorial for all the Koukios women that had passed on. In honor of all the wonderful women on my husband’s side of the family, I made Koliva. Some people find it a challenge, but I so love it because I get to reflect and remember the people that have departed this world. It’s a special Greek Orthodox tradition I carry on for family and close friends; the joy that comes with a completed, decorated cake.

Koliva is boiled wheat with (depending on the recipe) a combination of some or all of the following ingredients: powdered sugar, almonds, ground walnuts, sesame seeds, cinnamon, pomegranate seeds, raisins, anise, parsley and more. Koliva is made for memorials, typically on Saturdays of the Souls, and according to different traditions, the day of a Funeral, the 40th day after death, 3rd month, 6th month, 9th month, annually, and even sometimes just on “big” anniversaries such as five or 10 years.

In the book of John, it is written: “Christ said, ‘Unless a wheat grain falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.’” (John 12:24) As Orthodox Christians we are awaiting the 2nd Coming and the General Resurrection of the dead, through Christ we have life! But, remembering the memory of our deceased loved ones is an opportunity to pray for the souls of the departed as well as to help us heal from the death. What a special time to honor my father's friend, the women in my life and so many others. May their memories be eternal.

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